[EDITORIALS]A shock from Beijing talksAt the three-way talks between China, North Korea and the United States in Beijing, it was reported that North Korea said it possesses nuclear weapons and had begun reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods. We have yet to clearly figure out what is behind the North”s revelation, but it no doubt brings us “shock and awe.” The likelihood of the Korean Peninsula, and more largely Northeast Asia, being siezed with tension has increased. We now face an emergency situation in which the Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Unification and the foreign affairs team must review, from ground zero, the policy toward North Korea. The government must also seek a new approach on its policy toward Washington.
The North’s statement that it has nuclear weapons puts its nuclear plans at the forefront of issues on the peninsula. The two Koreas in 1991 declared the Korean Peninsula should be free of nuclear weapons. Their announcement thus squarely rejects the 1991 declaration. Moreover, the North has demonstrated the fallacy of their hitherto claim that the nuclear issue was a matter to be resolved bilaterally with Washington. The hypocrisy of Pyeongyang’s position that the South should play a “mediating role” has been revealed. Seoul was kept in the dark until yesterday afternoon, even though the North made the disclosure three days ago. Kept in the dark, the government did not open a related security meeting. Is this the government of and for South Korea?
The basis of the government’s policy toward North Korea has rested on the premise that Pyeongyang has no nukes. If that vital basis should erode, the government must revise its North Korea policy. First, the government should review defense policies. But the policy requiring urgent action is that of reconciliation and economic cooperation between the two Koreas. Should the government send a delegation to the 10th inter-Korean ministerial talks, which will discuss food and fertilizer aid to the North? We believe it should make crystal clear to the North that President Roh Moo-hyun meant he will not tolerate a nuclear North Korea.
The North’s high-handedness can be attributed to the Kim Dae-jung administration, which glossed over the North’s actions to argue for engagement. The government should face up to the reality that North Korea has not changed. We must step up our alliance with the United States to leave no alternative for the North but to resolve the nuclear issue.